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Chancellor announces A1 plans but no dualling for Northumberland

NEW roads will be built on Tyneside after the Chancellor announced £64m to ease congestion on the A1 Western Bypass – but there was no new money for dualling the road through Northumberland.

Traffic on the A1 Western Bypass

NEW roads will be built on Tyneside after the Chancellor announced £64m to ease congestion on the A1 Western Bypass – but there was no new money for dualling the road through Northumberland.

The lack of money to improve the A1 further north came amid claims the Department for Transport has done nothing to even prepare a business case for the Chancellor to consider, despite decades of campaigning.

Last night questions were being asked as to why Northumberland was again snubbed, with Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith meeting with the Transport Secretary yesterday afternoon to ask why there was no movement on dualling plans.

In his Autumn Statement, George Osborne said he wants to make the A1 motorway standard from Newcastle to London, including a U-turn on earlier plans to drop improvements to the route through Yorkshire.

Chancellor George Osborne
Chancellor George Osborne

As part of plans announced yesterday there will be new roads in both directions parallel to the existing A1 between Lobley Hill and A184 in Gateshead. Work is planned to start in 2014/15 with the scheme open for traffic in 2016.

The Government said the agreement came as a result of a City Deal signed between ministers and Newcastle Council earlier this year.

Further south some £314m will be spent upgrading the A1 between Leeming and Barton.

The Western Bypass investment has been welcomed by employers and those who have spent decades pushing for an upgrade to the route, which is the nation’s third most congested, beaten only by the M25 toll road crossings of the Thames.

Earlier this year ministers turned down plans for a Western Bypass upgrade despite some 123,400 vehicles using the route every day. They warned it could take another decade to get the road on the into the next funding round.

Mr Osborne yesterday intervened and promised to bring “the route from London to Newcastle up to motorway standard.”

But in Northumberland the A1 dualling snub was met with concern, with Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery saying it was a “disgrace”.

Dualling campaigner and prominent Conservative Anne-Marie Trevelyan said more needed to be done to get the Department for Transport to invest in the route.

She said: “Right now it is just ourselves, a small, unfunded group, trying to get at least a business case put together.

“We got the road made one of national strategic importance but that is just one of many steps which need completing, and we need pressure to be put on civil servants to get this done or else there will never be anything for the Chancellor to approve.”

Speaking in the Commons, Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith said: “Businesses in the North East will welcome the announcements that the Chancellor has made on business taxes, and on removing bottlenecks on the A1 south of Newcastle, but will also be very concerned that he has not yet announced progress on dualling the single-carriageway sections between Morpeth and the Scottish border, particularly as it is now over 20 years since the Chancellor’s own party promised to upgrade the northern stretches.”

The Chancellor said Sir Alan had a strong case which was powerfully backed by the Treasury Chief Secretary, Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander, and work continued with the Transport Secretary. Dualling, he said, was not off the cards.

Labour MPs said the announcement of cash for the A1 through Yorkshire merely reversed a previous 2010 decision to scrap the upgrade there.

There was also none of the £25m asked for by Tyne and Wear Metro bosses to bring forward upgrade work.

 

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